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February 13, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Skiers killed in Oregon avalanche ID’d; survivors offer thanks

Avalanche victim Jake Merrill (Courtesy of Backcountry Essentials)

Avalanche victim Jake Merrill (Courtesy of Backcountry Essentials)

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. | PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two backcountry skiers injured in a deadly Eastern Oregon avalanche are in satisfactory condition, and have released statements thanking rescuers.

Authorities say 60-year-old Susan Polizzi of Wenatchee suffered two broken legs and a broken arm during Tuesday’s avalanche in the Wallowa Mountains. Forty-year-old Bruno Bachinger of Snohomish, had a broken thigh bone.

The two are hospitalized in Walla Walla.

Polizzi said Thursday she survived in part because of the efforts a backcountry ski guide who “scarcely left her side” and the skills of the rescuers who brought her to safety.

Bachinger, meanwhile, released a short statement also thanking those who came to his aid.

The avalanche hit a party of six skiers and two guides. The bodies of a skier and guide who did not survive remain on the mountain.

UPDATE: 2:40 p.m. | PORTLAND (AP) — Authorities have released the names of a backcountry ski guide and his client who died in an Eastern Oregon avalanche.

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office says 23-year-old guide Jake Merrill, from Bellingham, Wash., and 30-year-old Shane Coulter, of Seattle, died Tuesday when the avalanche struck a group of six skiers and two guides in the southern part of the Wallowa Mountains.

Two other skiers suffered broken legs: 60-year-old Susan Polizzi, of Wenatchee, and 40-year-old Bruno Bachinger, of Snohomish. They were taken to a Washington hospital after it took rescuers all day Wednesday to get to them.

Avalanche risk has been high in the West. The deaths brought to 12 the number of people who have died in avalanches nationally this season, including six in the West since Sunday.

Original post:

Two backcountry skiers were hospitalized following their rescue from an Eastern Oregon mountain where two of their companions died in an avalanche, authorities said Thursday.

Baker County Undersheriff Warren Thompson said the two were conscious before they were flown to St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Wash. The seriously injured woman, from Wenatchee, Wash., suffered two broken legs and a broken arm, while the man, from Snohomish, Wash., had a broken thigh bone, Thompson said. He had no further information about their conditions.

Kathleen Obenland, a hospital spokeswoman, said she couldn’t say anything about the skiers, including whether they had been admitted to the hospital or transferred.

The avalanche struck Tuesday as a party of six experienced skiers from Washington state and two guides was on its third day of a five-day trek through the backcountry of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

It took rescuers all day Wednesday to get the injured man and woman off the mountain amid heavy snow and poor visibility.

Thompson said 13 inches of new snow has fallen since the tragedy. With the risk of another avalanche high, no plans were in place to retrieve the dead.

The other four members of the party escaped injury and safely left the mountain. No names had been released as of Thursday morning.

Avalanche risk has been high in the West after heavy snow intruded upon a relatively dry winter. The deaths brought to 12 the number of people who have died in avalanches nationally this season, including six in the West since Sunday.

The avalanche occurred in the southern part of the Wallowa Mountains, near Idaho. The Wallowa Avalanche Center warned a week ago that a foot or more of new snow was not bonding with old snow, and there was a report in the southern Wallowas that a skier had triggered a small slide and more were possible.

Tim Fought contributed to this report from Portland and Jeff Barnard contributed from Grants Pass, Ore.

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: hospital, rescued, skiers


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